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PG&E rate hike of nearly 13% approved by CPUC in unanimous vote

CPUC delays voting on PG&E rate increase
CPUC delays voting on PG&E rate increase 02:10

Pacific Gas and Electric ratepayers will be seeing an increase in their bills after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted unanimously to approve a rate increase Thursday.

The CPUC said that for a typical residential customer, the combined monthly electric and natural gas bill will increase by $32.62 or 12.8%, compared to PG&E's request of $38.73 or a 17.9% increase.

Customers can expect to see changes in their utility bills to go into effect beginning January 1, 2024.  

Every four years, PG&E undergoes a proceeding with the CPUC known as a General Rate Case (GRC) in which regulators review the utility's revenues and expenses to come up with reasonable adjustments to its rates. 

PG&E had sought to raise its revenue from 2022 by nearly 26% to $15.4 billion and said it would invest nearly two-thirds of it into its ongoing wildfire risk management plans.

The CPUC instead approved an 11% increase to $13.5 billion, which PG&E claimed last month was insufficient to complete the necessary wildfire mitigation efforts it has undertaken, primarily the undergrounding of power lines.

"I am proud of today's decision because it represents the CPUC's commitment to finding a reasonable balance in the face of incredibly challenging circumstances and competing objectives," said CPUC Commissioner John Reynolds in a prepared statement."This decision ultimately represents both an historic investment in PG&E's electric and natural gas systems as well as an expectation that PG&E must continue to be safer and more efficient. One of the main wildfire mitigation efforts PG&E has been undertaking is undergrounding, or burying power lines. This lessens the need for public safety power shutoffs, which are a last resort during dry, windy conditions to reduce the risk of sparking a wildfire."

The advocacy group Environmental Working Group (EWG) criticized the decision by the CPUC, calling the decision a "rubber stamp" on the proposed rate hike.

"This decision further demonstrates we can't count on the CPUC to act in the best interests of consumers when it has been house-broken for decades not to leave a mess on PG&E's balance sheet," EWG president Ken Cook said in a prepared statement. "The outrageous rate hike will deal a significant financial blow to millions of working families in the state, underscoring the extent of PG&E's control over regulatory decisions by the CPUC."

CPUC commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the alternate proposal, which covers initiatives including:

  • An additional 1,230 miles of electric line undergrounding, along with 778 miles of covered conductor lines
  • $1.3 billion toward vegetation management to reduce wildfire risk
  • Upgrading capacity to the electrical grid for enhanced building electrification, and new interconnections for new construction and electric vehicle charging stations

PG&E announced plans two years ago to bury 10,000 miles of power lines as part of its wildfire safety efforts. So far, it has undergrounded 384 miles of the 2,300 miles of power line it aims to bury through 2026, according to PG&E.  

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